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Publication Detail
Jones, L., Gutman, L.M., & Platt, L. (2012). Family stressors and child outcomes. London, DfE.
The research reported here aimed to identify:1.which family stress factors and parental behaviours were associated with worse outcomes for children at age 7 andwhich factors helped children to succeed2.whether stressful life events experienced at different periods of childhood were associated with worse outcomes in adolescence.Differences in children’s outcomeshave been shown to emerge early in life, and to be linked to both family circumstances, such as social disadvantage, and parenting behaviours, such as parenting style and activities with the child. Both these aspects of a child’s environment are important for their early cognitive and emotional development. But it is not clear whether these early differences, and the factors associated with them, persist up to age 7. Previous research has also shown that stressful life events are associated with worse outcomesfor children. However, it has not previously been possible to explore whether particular life events are especially detrimental, whether they impact across different sorts of children’s outcomes(educational, social etc.), and whether the effects of early childhood events persist into adolescence. In order to target interventions, it is clearly important to understand which family circumstances are significant for child wellbeing at different ages, and how that varies across outcomes. A range of children’s outcomeswere examined using data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). At age 7, these were verbal cognitive skills, non-verbal skills, maths skills, Key Stage 1 (KS1) attainment and behavioural difficulties. For teenagers, the following outcomes were explored at age 13-14: Key Stage 3 (KS3) attainment; emotional, behavioural, social, and school wellbeing; and Key Stage 4 (KS4) results at age 16. Key findingsA wide range of family background factors and parental behaviours are associated with children’s outcomesat age 7. These tend to be the same factors that are important at earlier ages, and include parenting behaviours, family structure andsocio-economic position of the family.Family poverty, child disability and the child’s mother having higher qualifications are consistently associated with children faring respectively worse (poverty and disability) and better (higher maternal qualifications) across all five age 7 outcomes, holding other factors constant.No other factors are associated with all five outcomes.Different aspects of family background matter for different outcomes.Children can experience a range of stressful life events. Extreme stressful events, such as homelessness, victimisation or abuse, can have long-term effects on children’s outcomes.
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